UN rights chief condemns Tanzania albino attacks

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay condemned Tuesday attacks on albinos in Tanzania by gangs collecting body parts for witchcraft who kill or dismember their victims, including babies and young children.

"These crimes are abhorrent," Pillay said in a statement.

"People with albinism have the right to start living, like anyone else, without fear of being killed or dismembered," she said.

Pillay listed a series of such attacks over two recent weeks, including one in which a seven-year-old boy was murdered and his arm chopped off and his 95-year-old grandfather died trying to defend him.

She also cited an attack on a seven-month-old albino baby that was foiled by villagers, one on a 39-year-old woman who was dragged from her bed and her armed hacked off, and another on a 10-year-old boy whose arm was chopped off by a group that caught him as he returned from school.

"I strongly condemn these vicious killings and attacks, which were committed in particularly horrifying circumstances, and which have involved dismembering people, including children, while they are still alive," Pillay said.

There is a widespread belief in Tanzania that charms made from albino body parts bring good fortune and prosperity.

Albinism is a genetic condition characterised by a deficiency of melanin pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes which protects from the sun's ultraviolet rays.

Albinos, who appear extremely pale, are discriminated against and persecuted in many African countries.

Successful prosecutions are extremely rare, Pillay's office said.

Out of 72 murders of albinos in Tanzania since 2000, only five cases are known to have resulted in successful prosecutions, it noted.

"The Tanzanian authorities have the primary responsibility to protect people with albinism, and to fight against impunity, which is a key component for prevention and deterrence of the crimes targeting this exceptionally vulnerable community," said Pillay.